‘We pretend we’re pretty’

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Monday, February 3, 2014


A WORKER of a mail-order bride website raided by the police last Saturday said they just pretend that they are pretty so they can dupe foreigners.

Lani (real name withheld), 23, said her fellow agents, including men, at the Filipino Heart Internet Consultant (FHIC) in Barangay Guadalupe, Cebu City do this scheme so they can earn dollars.

“Their conversation will always stay longer if the main subject matter is about explicit sexual conversation or intercourse,” said Lani in her affidavit.

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Lani was among the 12 employees and trainees of FHIC who executed affidavits against its owner.

SPO4 Domingo Conjurado said they have 12 witnesses, who are employees and trainees of FHIC. They conducted surveillance for three months.

Some of the employees are mass communication undergraduates and graduates of nursing, tourism, and information technology from universities in the cities of Cebu and Tagbilaran.

An American national from Ohio also executed an affidavit, saying he was duped by FHIC. He said he arrived in Cebu in 2012 to meet with the woman he met online, but the meeting did not happen.

“If the client is sexually aroused, he would request the translator whom he believes to be the female model he chose to upload sample/s of nude pictures of her. Then the translator will quickly (open) Google, search, and select nude pictures...Thereafter, the translator will now upload said picture for the client to see,” said Lani.

The mass communication undergraduate then would consult the manager and alleged FHIC owner Mei Yi, 29, a Chinese national.

She said the manager and Yi would allegedly contact a real model and inquire if she is interested and available for the actual meeting with the online customer, who is likely a foreigner who wanted to have sex for a fee.

The police charged Yi and two Filipino women before the Cebu City Prosecutor’s Office yesterday afternoon for allegedly running a mail-order bride website.

A complaint for violating Section 4 (b) of Republic Act (RA) 9208 (the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003)as amended by RA 10364 (the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act) was filed against Ligaya Vitor, and Leslie Cardenas Tayong.

Yi is tagged as the owner of FHIC, which operates www.idateasia.com.

Vitor is allegedly the manager of the firm, while Tayong’s name appears on the business permit.

At large

A team from the Regional Anti-Cybercrime Group caught Yi and Vitor during a raid last Saturday afternoon.

Under Section 4 (b) RA 9208, a person is prohibited to “introduce or match for money, profit, or material, economic or other consideration.”

It further states that “any Filipino woman” should not also be matched “to a foreign national, for marriage for the purpose of acquiring, buying, offering, selling or trading her to engage in prostitution, pornography, sexual exploitation, forced labor, slavery, involuntary servitude or debt bondage.”

Any person found guilty of violating Section 4 (b) suffer the penalty of imprisonment of 20 years and a fine of not less than P1 million but not more than P2 million.

Lawyer Jessie Capoy said his clients, Yi and company, will not file a counter-affidavit if the case is bailable.

If the prosecutor will resolve the case and put no bail, Capoy said they will file a counter-affidavit to answer the allegations.

“My client denied she is into an illegal business,” he said.

Denial

In a separate interview, Yi denied she runs the online dating website and owns all the 35 computers seized by the police. She arrived in the Philippines in 2012 and she is just a tourist.

She said she was with her five-year-old daughter, who is studying English, when she was arrested.

Yi also denied that Vitor, a resident of Tagbilaran City, Bohol, is the manager of her firm.

“Her work really is just taking care of the house, cleaning and laundry,” she said. “I have business in China.”

She cried when she spoke about her daughter, who is left in the care of her friend.

The inquest proceeding will be conducted today by Assistant Cebu City Prosecutor Mary Ann Castro.

Lani said she was hired by FHIC in May last year as writer and translator.

She and the clients, who are mostly foreigners, have no knowledge that they are only dealing with FHIC workers.

“I will be handling eight to ten accounts,” she said. “These accounts are lady models recruited by them where the sexy pictures of these female models are posted at the website called as enticement for any clients to go online for a fee.”

Lani said the clients, who are mostly foreigners, are asked to pay US$399 before they can start any conversation.

She said the payment will be converted into a credit, which is the basis of an employees’ incentive rate.

Their income is dependent on how many credits they got and they will persuade their online clients to continue chatting with them, she said.

Vigilance

Meanwhile, Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama said he will not hesitate to revoke the business permit of the call center that allegedly operates cyber-pornography in Barangay Guadalupe.

Last Saturday, the Anti-Cybercrime Group (ACG) 7 of the Philippine National Police (PNP) raided an establishment and arrested its owner and manager. Some women working as call center agents were also rescued.

“It was better that they were caught,” Rama told reporters.

The mayor was happy over the apprehensions.

“We should commend the enforcers because the more are watching over, the more are vigilant, the better we can give enforcement,” he said.

The mayor also pointed out that if the City Treasurer’s Office (CTO) finds reasons and grounds to revoke business permits, the City won’t hesitate to do the move.

“They cannot be operating when they are doing such business. We don’t need that kind of business and if there are grounds to have it revoked, have it revoked,” Rama added.

Based on CTO records, the City was able to issue permit for the company.

The company was registered to operate consultancy services. They have also been renewing and paying their dues annually since it started its operation.

CTO records showed that Leslie Cardenas Tayong was the permittee of the company.

As to the reports that there are still some four to five establishments and companies disguised as online dating sites, but are actually operating cyber-pornography, Rama told police and other concern agencies to enforce the law against them.

Disturbing

Jun Saa, executive director of the Cebu Development Foundation for Information Technology said “It is sad and disturbing that such illegal operations exist. But that is one of the biggest challenges of the cyberworld—how to control and regulate so that only the legitimate players can operate. But we should view the case with the right perspective. We have a globally legitimate and leading ICT/BPM industry. This illegal operations are very minor compared to the legal operations and should not be magnified to taint the legal operations.”

He said Cebu retained its eighth spot in the Tholons Top 100 Outsourcing Destination for 2014, while Manila dislodged Mumbai and is now the world’s second most important places for business process outsourcing. Five other Philippine cities were also listed in the Top 100 rankings.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 04, 2014.

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